I think I’m only writing for practice. Practicing my HTML skills. I’m still pretty far behind the curve on this one, but it’s not that difficult, just memorizing what to use, when/why, and how: same as every other thing in life. Apparently learning to code is important for everyone, now that our world runs on the internet, computers and smart devices (phones, tablets, etc.).
When I did my internship with KeyReads, they gave me a few PowerPoint slides on SEO and HTML but I fell off using them because I finished my internship and ultimately dropped out of Graduate School, which was a mistake, to go into cooking, which wasn’t a mistake. I don’t know what my life would have been like if I stayed in my master’s program and maybe tried to cook part-time. It got me to where I am today, regardless. I have good friends and live in a place I love because I attended 1/2 of the program to which I applied.
I only mentioned the dogs because I really am surrounded by dogs. My mom’s business is called P.E.T. Your Dog. She does pet sits, CPR/first aid training, and doggie day care, as well as overnight boarding. So, there are always dogs at her house, which my mom’s cat isn’t too happy about. Now that my mom’s business is well established, she can be more selective when it comes to taking clients. Sometimes the cat can hang out with the dogs, not too often, but it happens occasionally.
If you read my comments on this blog, you see her perennially saying she’s proud of me. I’m proud of her too.
I’ve been struggling lately, trying to figure out what to do with myself now that the closure is official and I’m unemployed (by choice). I had no desire to work in our sister restaurant, a restaurant that does more than 100 covers on a nightly basis and is open for lunch. It is just too much for me. I have loved my restaurant coworkers more than any other aspect, which is crazy thinking about the fact that the actual cooking is what originally pulled me into the career. If I were a great cook, I would stay because I would love every aspect, but I just do not have the skills or drive anymore.
I decided to take a few days to myself, no boyfriend, no friends from work and visit my family. I got to go to the river and camp two nights, I shopped with my mom (not my most responsible part of this episode) and just relaxed. I needed a bit of perspective and I enjoyed the crap out of it!
My recent soul-searching has led me to take many career and personality quizzes. Apparently, I am a tribe member, a high-octane collaborator and an ENFP. I never saw myself as an extrovert as a child, but I know now that I just did not learn to be one until more recently. Working in the kitchen–and not being near my old friends, or my overly supportive family, who I relied on too much—has led me to become a more active extrovert who is willing to get shit done. However, I have not done much of anything constructive outside of my last job, too tired to write, too preoccupied to think about anything other than paying rent really. Now that I have this opportunity to take a deep breath—inhale relaxation, and exhale stress—I cannot let it pass without learning about who I am. Therefore, I took the quizzes as a basis for my soul-searching.
In summation of the quizzes, this is what I have gotten:
Energizer bunny that you are, your dream career is probably heavy on action and involves lots of hard starts and stops: a journalist, a project manager, a chef, a doctor, a firefighter, or anything fast-paced that relies on quick response time. And as an extrovert, you’d be great working in customer service, HR, or any role that involves reading and interacting with others (Bornforthis.com).
I also “love to interact with all kinds of people” and have an “expressive and warm manner that ideally sees lots of affirmation flowing both ways” (http://www.celebritytypes.com/test.php). According to my results clarityonfire.com, “To you, there’s nothing more rewarding than working toward a big vision with a team of people you love.”
I am clearly very motivated by working on a team and collaborating with my coworkers. I will shy away from solo projects because I find the interaction more motivating than just working by myself. As a tribe member, it is beneficial to me to eschew the ”responsibilities of business ownership, … use your leadership prowess to manage a team, take the reins on a project, and get to spend your valuable time doing what you’re good at” (clarityonfire.com). I want to be the one coming up with cool ideas and having other people work with me to reach unique, exciting, team-engaging goals. Most of all, I just want to feel like I belong to a group and am a necessary, contributing member of the team.
If given free rein to change something at a previous job, I would insist that all employees be trained properly. At most of my jobs, I was trained like a monkey, to just do the job and not to strive for anything greater. There was no learning other than how to make one version of one singular recipe. I feel like this is an easy change to make, but most chefs don’t have the time or energy (understandably) to train their employees in this manner. However, when they also tell me that culinary school is unnecessary because you can learn it all on the job, I feel this is misrepresenting the facts. Not all cooks have the drive (or at least know where to begin) to learn everything they need on their own, even if they know what they want.
To check if the chefs are training their hires properly, I would ask the cooks to make me something of their own, to riff on an existing recipe at that restaurant or think of and execute a recipe for a component that would complement a current on-menu dish. I believe Michael Ruhlman was correct in that chefs need to know the appropriate ratios, not just one recipe. This is something I have struggled with in the industry because I learned it this year instead of three years ago when I started out.
Since my last post was a long time ago, I know that there is a lot I have not written about… I have been working at a Michelin-starred restaurant since early January. I am proud of where my journey has taken me in such a short time! I feel I haven’t entirely earned working in a Michelin-starred restaurant by any merit, since I am currently doing a job (for essentially the first time) which I would not ever have expected myself to be doing; I have been a food runner at Aziza! It is a wholly different experience to not be cooking or baking but still working in a restaurant. It has been a relief not to have to worry as much about the plating or getting in trouble for not being an experienced enough cook. All that I have had to do is be nice, eloquent and have the menu and all its ingredients memorized.
The only bad thing about working in a restaurant as a food runner is that I still want to go to culinary school. I am learning a lot about ingredients and sourcing and guest relations, but it is not hands on cooking. However, I still have too much debt even to consider attending culinary school. With some credit card bills from when I was in a transitional period called college, to the student loan I took out for two semesters of graduate school, I am afraid to take on more debt right now to get schooling for a career that just is not very lucrative. Consequently, I simply have to continue working as hard as I can and I am going to continue to work two jobs if that is what it takes. Of course, I do not want to entirely give up working in the back of house anyway. so, even if I’m at One Market Restaurant only a few days a month, continuing with two jobs makes more sense, unless I could work for a restaurant like Lazy Bear where the cooks are the servers.
Regardless of culinary school pipe dreams, I have been to some lovely restaurants lately, including Spruce, Trestle and Nopa; all three of which I was very impressed with. I think Trestle, being that it is so inexpensive and has just as good food as the other two, and therefore is a great value, takes the proverbial cake. All three were wonderful experiences, however, and entirely different anyway. I don’t have time before work to go into detail about them, but comment below if you’d like to see a follow-up blog about these restaurants.
I’m not going to talk about anything I don’t know about because then I’d just be letting gas escape and I’m better at doing that through my ass, than through my mouth. And it’s funnier when I do it that way.
I do plan to cook my way through Julia Child’s cookbooks one of these days; I just need to deal with the multitude of things that are on my figurative plate right now, first. I realized today that I had not even renewed my car registration. I was almost a month late doing it, and the DMV sure penalized me for that mistake. Although, of course, had the lateness been on their part, they wouldn’t have given me a discount or anything like that.
I keep seeing all of these food-themed movies coming out in theaters lately and I’m so happy that people are getting into the slow food movement. And they all have romance tied in somehow because food is love, as most cultures will tell you. For example, my boyfriend’s mother is greek-american and she is always trying to feed everyone, including me. She taught her children that food is love too, so my boyfriend is also always trying to feed me. Food is love because it gives us the nutrients necessary for living but also it gives us mental sustenance, which comes from the flavors of our food. So when a food reminds you of your grandmother or your first love because of a spice or something, it’s echoing the love you feel and it becomes comfort food. Food that makes you feel really good even though those people may not be with you at the time.
Cooking itself is romantic, though, don’t you think? The act of preparing food for your loved ones is special because you know you’re treating them to really great food to show them that you care about them and about what they put into their bodies. Foods can literally be made with love.
Even when you are cooking for hundreds of strangers every day and being paid to do it, it still feels romantic, even though there may be a paradigm shift where the romance is with the food itself since you don’t know who is going to consume it. You really have to love slicing up hundreds of onions and julienning carrots to do this for your living.
I feel like I could write entire essays on the different topics I touched on in this entry, so if you want more on anything specific, please comment below. Be sure to subscribe!
So, I just got one of the best gifts of my life. Nothing extravagant or expensive….Well relatively speaking it’s exorbitant, I usually spend only a few dollars on a book. This one is quite a bit more costly than that. But this book, this book is special. My boyfriend just gave me the two-volume set of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. You may be able to imagine my excitement on receiving this gift, or maybe not. But if you have read my blog or know me personally (shout out to mom, haha), you know how excited I am. I’ve often said I wanted to be like Julia, dedicated to the art of cooking. My blog is even named for her most famous ingredient, butter.
But I’ve never allowed anyone to buy this set for me, and I wasn’t ready to purchase it for myself, for many reasons first and foremost, the price tag and my fear. I am terrible at following through on things, just like Julie from Julie and Julia, but I plan on being accountable for reading through the two volumes. I even intend to cook as many recipes as possible for the practice and to feed my boyfriend and roommates.
The big question is… Should I try to make every recipe in one year or less? Would anyone be interested in reading about that kind of travail?
I’ve been contemplating culinary school for ages now. It used to feel like a pipe dream, something that wouldn’t amount to anything even if I did attend. Now I know that I can hang in the restaurant world. I love it, in fact. I know my dream is to continue working in restaurants for as long as I’m able. Maybe my goals will change after having kids or something distant like that, maybe they won’t.
My question is, is culinary school worth it, now that I’m already in the business? According to most people (like Anthony Bourdain) and schools (CIA), you shouldn’t go unless you’ve worked in a restaurant before. Just so both you and the school know if you’re willing to put in the hard work. I know I’m willing to put in the work, but I don’t know which school to attend or how to fund it.
I just made dinner for the first time in ages. And yes, you’re probably wondering….”um, Alex, you work in a restaurant, don’t you make dinner for people every night?” And yes, that’s a valid question. Very valid. Tonight though, I cooked myself dinner. Albeit, not a great one. But I felt more creative than I have in ages because I didn’t have to create someone else’s dish for the thousandth time. Which, don’t mistake me, I love cooking in the restaurant scene, but this felt nice in very different way. I can see by looking at my recently published blogs that I haven’t cooked anything I found worth blogging about at home since last July….
That’s very sad to me. I like writing this blog almost as much as I like to imagine that I’m Julie Powell of the Julie/Julia franchise. And the fact that I haven’t felt inspired to cook for myself at home, even on my days off, since July, is downright sad. But I have a new lease on life right now. I dropped a lot of baggage a while back and now I’m in a great new relationship with myself and with my new boyfriend. So I’m going to be cooking for him at home more often. And I’m in the middle of a job search, about which I hope to write some notes, too. So I should have some more fodder for my blog from here on out.
Back to the title. I made strawberry vinaigrette tonight. Fresh strawberries, garlic and balsamic vinegar and a bit too much olive oil…But it’s still tasty! The salad itself was just spinach and fennel and chia seeds, but also tasty. I also cooked up some corn and reheated a bratwurst I braised in apple juice a few days back.
This afternoon I decided I wanted to experiment after watching a video of Laura Calder, who is the Julia Child to my Julie Powell. Although I am not exactly going through a master cookbook like Julie was, her blog is the inspiration for mine, and Laura is my muse. I digress. After watching an episode of her show French Food at Home entitled “Truckstop French,” I was inspired to make a brie sandwich.
However, I had English muffins, not baguette, and I toasted them in butter instead of slathering on softened butter. Laura Calder loves butter just as much as Julia Child or I ever could. I love that about cooks who make French food. They are neither afraid of butter, nor afraid to use a lot of it and I really think that nobody ever should be! Butter is a saint, as is bread. I think they are frequently martyrs, but I’m resurrecting them for my own cooking escapades.
Back to my sandwich. I added to my sandwich an egg fried over easy in the butter from my English muffins. All I have to say is, “PLEASE do NOT make this sandwich!” it did not taste very nice, brie and juicy egg together…and I didn’t make clarified butter, which I probably also should have done. However, I don’t really know how and I don’t intend to learn it tonight, as I’m too tired from this week. A week, which is, to my dismay, not over yet…
I need another nap.
And maybe another glass of wine.
p.s. I found a recipe for “Quick and Easy Yorkshire Pudding” which I intend to try soon. Does anyone have any tips on what to pair with it? (Other than wine, of course!)